For some time now I have been contemplating writing a blog about the lifestyle of myself and others who live in poverty. Too many times I've heard the urban legends about the luxury lifestyle of those “abusing” the system. One particularly popular story concerns the outrage of a man who stands behind someone in the grocery store purchasing lobster with food stamps. He would like to buy lobster but he can't afford it! What greed and misuse of the system! He equates this scenario with HIS taxes, wastefully thrown away in what he assumes to be easy access to money not really needed.
Every poor person I've talked to can't believe this story lives! They think it's absolutely ludicrous! The closest thing any poor person around here has gotten to eating a “lobster” would be some poor soul in deep woods who pulled a crawdad out of a tea stained crick. The truth about anyone seen buying lobster or any other high priced item with food stamps is this: Someone receiving $350 a month, plus food stamps, has sold their stamps for far less than they are worth for some aspect that they deem far more important than food, such as keeping their car running so their kids have a relatively safe place to sleep. I say this because I have actually met and talked to people in such circumstances. The greater problem here is: This is the best they can do with what they've been given. Of course it's illegal, but by the necessities of survival and the limits of the system, the poorest among us are made criminals.
Such people are the real tragedy in America and I beside them am a literal Queen of Plenty. My story pales so in comparison to theirs, but because I have not found an ongoing detailed accounting of their lives and difficulties, I've decided to document my own life, my own tale, of the $715/month high end of the poverty scale because the general population in America is pretty much totally clueless as to the state so many people are in and the woefully inadequate services that are available. I will also be documenting my encounters with the truly needy, because at age sixty, 5'1” and a little over 100 lbs., unlike many, I am not afraid of someone based simply on the fact that they “seem” very poor or homeless. And I say “seem” because often as I walk about with my big oversized carry-all bag (that may at anytime come in handy) I am pegged as a pariah...even though I look neither poor or homeless. Then I become someone to be feared. Someone to turn your back on or run away from or to refuse to speak to. Someone who is less, less than you, less than others, less than eligible of being treated like a regular human being. One of The Great Undeserving....the poor who need so much, yet by many American accounts, deserve little if anything. For some who read this, rest assured that in many cases that is exactly all that they are receiving: some assistance but not enough to do more than barely survive upon.
So my question to you is: Who among us is not deserving of three meals a day, a safe place to sleep and basic life giving and preventative health care? Who doesn't deserve that, I mean, really? The alcoholic who was raped as a child? The vet whose PTSD is exacerbated by being homeless? The drug addict that has no access to a live-in recovery facility? The children who grew up in poverty and see hopelessness as a way of life? The mother on welfare who goes to work only to be exhausted and ends up paying the bulk of her income to a baby sitter? The alcoholics who use booze because it's the only way they can sleep—and even then, fitfully—because you never know when you may be attacked, beaten, robbed? Or the young adults who were foster children, with no family and nowhere to go when they cannot find a job? Over half are released from foster care and go directly into poverty and homelessness.
Upon thorough examination, one sees that it is not the people who are the problem. The problem is that the system is broken. The American Dream has become just that. For the multitudes, a facade. For the poor, a nightmare come true which by it's very design is nearly inescapable.
So I am going to document for you what I live and see and learn. And hopefully—I do so hope---that some of you will take the opportunity to begin to question the unexamined stories in your heads about the so called “truth” about poverty. It is these lies, viewed as truths, and the seemingly ever present need to blame, that I believe are the crux of our problems in America. When we stop worrying about ourselves and begin to simply do what is right—and I feel that that is starting to happen now—then things will finally begin to correct themselves.
So please join me on a journey to personally become the change that we keep demanding of our leaders. One by one I truly believe that we can and will change things in America, for that is ultimately my true purpose here: to illuminate not just poverty but the recesses of your minds. To help you realize that the renewal of our country depends upon cooperation, not condemnation. And that is the full and complete reason that we as a country stand still today. Progress will come when we simply do what's right, big or small, in whatever way we can.
Todays Lesson: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates
copyright Linda Matthews 8/30/2013